The Life Span of a Parrot Cichlid

By Katherine Barrington

The family Cichlidae is the largest group of freshwater fishes, and it contains some of the most recognizable species in the aquarium hobby including discus fish, angelfish and parrot cichlids.There are two natural species of parrot cichlid that can be found in South America and Central America, but more common in the aquarium hobby is the man-made hybrid known as the blood parrot cichlid. Parrot cichlids can add a bright splash of color to your tank and, if you care for them properly, they will live long, healthy lives.

Parrot Cichlid Facts

While many aquarium hobbyists are familiar with blood parrot cichlids, many do not realize that this species does not occur naturally. The two real parrot cichlid species are Hoplarchus psittacus and Hypsophrys nicaraguensis, though the latter is more commonly called the Nicaragua cichlid. True parrot cichlids are fairly rare in the aquarium hobby, but the blood parrot cichlid is widely available, known for its deep red-orange color and the distinct beak-like shape of its face. Because they are a man-made species, blood parrot cichlids have no scientific name. These fish have been bred with other species to create color variants such as the purple heart parrot cichlid and bubblegum parrot cichlid.

Average Life Span

Hoplarchus psittacus, or the true parrot cichlid, can live up to 10 years in captivity. Some specimens, however, have been known to live upwards of 15 years. Similarly, Hypsophrys nicaraguensis, or the Nicaragua cichlid, generally live between 10 and 15 years, though some specimens live longer. The blood parrot cichlid has a similar life expectancy around 10 years. This life span is common among cichlids -- particularly among some of the larger species.

Maximizing Life Span

The best way to maximize the life span of parrot cichlids is to maintain a healthy tank environment and to feed the fish a nutritious diet. Most parrot cichlids thrive in a pH close to neutral, though they may tolerate slightly lower levels around 6.0 or 6.5. The ideal temperature for a parrot cichlid tank is in the range of 72 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, though Hoplarchus psittacus tend to thrive in slightly warmer temperatures. A healthy diet for parrot cichlids should include a staple diet of high-quality cichlid flakes or pellets supplemented with live or frozen foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, mussels and vegetables that include blanched lettuce or zucchini.

Tips for Care

Because the two natural species of parrot cichlid come from different natural habitats, it is wise to cater the water parameters of your tank to the particular species you intend to cultivate. Tank-bred specimens are likely to tolerate a wider variety of tank conditions than wild-caught specimens, and man-made species such as the blood parrot cichlid are the most tolerant. To keep the water quality in your tank high, avoid overfeeding your parrot cichlids and perform weekly water changes of between 10 and 20 percent of the tank volume.